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Trio takes over DeKalb's The House Cafe

The House Cafe's Jan Pascolini decided not to renew her lease, which expired Thursday. Pascolini sold the business to three long-time patrons, who plan few changes.
The House Cafe's Jan Pascolini decided not to renew her lease, which expired Thursday. Pascolini sold the business to three long-time patrons, who plan few changes.

DeKALB – The House Cafe owner Jan Pascolini planned to have a private dinner party at the downtown music venue Thursday as she passed ownership to a trio of long time patrons.

She wanted to thank some of the people who had helped her during the past six years she has owned the cafe, bar and music venue.

Pascolini sold the business to Anthony Solario, Lisa Cowley and Corey Twombly, who
signed a long-term lease with building owner Fareed Haque. Pascolini announced weeks ago that she did not plan to renew her lease when it expired Thursday.

“I think the hand off is being done very amicably,” said Haque, who also is a jazz and classical guitar professor at Northern Illinois University. “Everything feels really positive. And I’m glad we didn’t have to put a sports bar in there.”

The new owners are finalizing their plans, but they plan to keep the name and continue the schedule of ongoing events at The House Cafe at 263 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb. Neither Solario nor Haque would disclose the length of the lease, but Solario said, “The House will be around for a good long while.”

“We want to keep it the way it is in terms of events,” said Solario, of Cortland. “We want to expand the menu and, as new owners, we’ll have to reapply for a liquor license.”

The House Cafe was closed Thursday, but Solario foresees closing for no more than two weeks while licenses to serve food and liquor are obtained. He said no major remodeling is planned, but the interior will be freshened up.

Solario and Twombly, of Malta, play together in the band Shannon’s Last Call, which played its first show at The House. Solario said he and Cowley, of DeKalb, have worked together as well.

Haque announced the sale Wednesday during the Northern Illinois University Jazz Combo Fest at The House, which prompted audience members to applaud and show their gratitude for all that Pascolini has done as owner.

In return, Pascolini wanted to thank her employees, patrons and musicians who supported her over the years. Thursday’s private dinner, dubbed “The Last Supper with Jan Pascolini,” was another effort to show her gratitude, but she admitted she’d appreciate visiting The House as a patron rather than its manager in the future.

She said she always carried the responsibility of The House with her.

“As far going home and turning it off, I don’t think I’ve ever done that,” said Pascolini, who said she is excited to pursue new projects.

Meanwhile, some patrons were excited that the House Cafe would remain a downtown DeKalb cultural hub with few changes.

Jason Kellmer, a Northern Illinois University student, performed for the first time with his band, Stripes for Stones, during an open mic night there in August. He remembers the emcee encouraging him and making him feel really comfortable.

“The venue itself has a really good fan base,” Kellmer said. “There’s people who show up at the Open Mic Night every Monday, and there’s people who show up to the NIU jam night every Wednesday.”

Brett Whitacre, a musician and visual artist, presently has paintings stenciled or spraypainted on reclaimed windows displayed at The House Cafe. He remembers performing with a couple of bands there over the years and visiting more frequently when he moved to Sycamore about 1 1/2 years ago.

“Apart form NIU’s art program, this is the only other thing in this area [for visual artists],” Whitacre said. “It’s a constant changing gallery, and every Monday night, they bring 30-plus musicians from not just DeKalb but the surrounding area together.”

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